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Volunteer Voices8th March 2022

International Women’s Day: Sharon

In our series for International Women’s Day, find out how our volunteers #InspireInclusion.

Sharon’s Story

I started volunteering at The Historic Dockyard about two years ago.

A friend and I had already developed an interest in Heritage Railways and we started talking to a railway volunteer at the Salute to the ’40s weekend. He encouraged us to get involved and that’s just what we did.

Within a year, I became part of the team that looks after all of the behind-the-scenes stuff, such as updating rosters and ensuring that the team keep their qualifications up-to-date. Railway volunteers are assessed regularly to ensure we are still up to the required industry standards. (After all, these are large pieces of equipment that could be very dangerous in the wrong hands.)

Once I’ve learned all the different aspects of the role, I hope to qualify as a driver. There are two different types of locomotive on-site – steam and diesel, so lots to learn!

Beyond the Railway

The Dockyard is an extremely diverse site and, although the railway is my primary interest, I have since discovered many other departments where I can make myself useful, keep learning new things, and utilise many of the skills that I’ve acquired over the years.

My first steps beyond the railway shed were helping Voluntary Services set up seating and fencing for Salute to the ’40s. This involved moving hundreds of seats across the site, setting them out into blocks of rows, and constructing the picket fence around them.

After that, I got involved with some of the conservation work that takes place regularly in 3 Slip. This area houses large artefacts including boats, cannons, and a multitude of other items that are representative of the centuries of history relating to the Dockyard and other naval endeavours. These items all need cleaning regularly given that 3 Slip is somewhat open to the elements.

Another area that the conservation team is responsible for is managing and dealing with insects that can do damage to the museum’s collection. Some insects thrive in wooden objects or fabrics, and there are a lot of such items on site. Together with another volunteer, we offered to take responsibility for updating the insect pest management system on-site. We now undertake quarterly checks to monitor that no new creepy crawlies start damaging historically important items in the collection.

Being a part of the Dockyard

Last year, I joined a project group that includes representatives from all over the site – everyone from volunteers to senior management – to look at potential ‘small’ improvements across the site.

Any volunteer or member of staff can make a suggestion and the team will use their combined knowledge and experience to decide whether to go ahead and implement the suggested changes. This is an interesting thing to be involved with as it has increased my knowledge of how The Dockyard works and how different areas of the business interact.

I’ve also helped support a three-day conference that took place around the site last autumn, providing delegates with directions and information, and supporting the team of organisers as necessary.

Finally, The Dockyard team likes to get involved in events in the local community. Last year, in collaboration with Intra Arts, we created a huge sea monster and other aquatic creatures during some workshop sessions. Then we paraded the results at events such as Chatham Carnival, Medway Pride, Brompton Lightspaces (part of the Electric Medway Festival) and, most recently, the Chatham Chinese Festival.

Become a Volunteer

It’s very good fun to be involved in these events and I’d highly recommend it.

I also love the fact that Pip, the Volunteer Coordinator, arranges social events for volunteers. These include visits to other historic sites, coffee mornings, a summer picnic and most recently, a quiz night.

There are plenty of chances to get to know other volunteers and members of staff and who knows what further opportunities might crop up from chatting to them?!

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